Public Safety

University of Iowa police add charges to Iowa City protest leader

'After pulling the fence down, the defendant proceeded into the secure area and celebrated'

IOWA CITY — The leader of Iowa City’s recent Black Lives Matter protests, who Iowa City police arrested Sunday evening for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, now faces additional charges from University of Iowa police.

Mazin Mohamedali, 20, faces three additional UI-filed charges of trespass, a serious misdemeanor; fifth-degree criminal mischief, a simple misdemeanor; and second-degree criminal mischief — a felony.

The charges stem from Mohamedali’s alleged actions during protests on Friday and Sunday on the UI Pentacrest, outside the Old Capitol Museum. According to UI police complaints provided to The Gazette on Tuesday, Mohamedali is accused of spray painting in hot pink the walkway leading to the historic Old Capitol.

He’s also accused of toppling a $5,000 eight-foot-tall fence that had been erected around the Old Capitol to prevent damage and protect demonstrators from injury, according to the charging documents approved for release late Monday.

“Demonstrators had previously climbed on the structure behind the fence to vandalize it,” according to the police records. “The defendant can be seen kicking a plywood board partition multiple times to topple the fence.”

Although the documents indicate Mohamedali was the third person to participate in the activity, UI police have not arrested any others, according to the UI Department of Public Safety’s crime log.

Mohamedali — who has called himself a leader of the Iowa Freedom Riders, the group leading the recent protests — quickly was joined by others “as he waved franticly to get others to assist in the joint criminal conduct,” according to police.

Officers observed him pulling down the fence, according to the complaint.

“The fence was eight feet tall and a reasonable person who would encounter an area totally secured by an eight-foot-tall fence would know they had no right, reason, or permission to be beyond the fence,” the complaint said. “After pulling the fence down, the defendant proceeded into the secure area and celebrated with others.”

The fence, which entirely surrounded the campus’ National Historic Landmark, is valued at $5,000, according to police.

Mohamedali is accused of pulling down the fence on both Friday, just before 8 p.m., and just after 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

He also is facing three charges from Iowa City police, who arrested him after 6 p.m. Sunday. Those charges include unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, both simple misdemeanors, for blocking roads during recent protests. He also faces a felony probation violation charge stemming from a 2018 armed robbery conviction, which landed him three years probation.

A Johnson County judge Monday morning said Mohamedali could be released on his own recognizance for the misdemeanor charges but she didn’t have authority to intervene in a state order he live in a halfway house. Thus Mohamedali was moved to Marshall County Jail, where he remains with no set bond, until space in the Hope House opens up, according to court records and the Johnson County Jail roster.

While Mohamedali remained in custody, the Iowa Freedom Riders on Monday continued to protest and make demands of the Iowa City Council and Iowa City Police Department — releasing a new list, topped with a demand the city drop all charges against protesters.

The updated list also includes demands the city come out strong in support of the protesters; deprioritize “law and order”; make public the full Iowa City police budget; and prioritize diversity staffing, training, and planning.

Protesters also want a sweeping reform of the Iowa City Community Police Review Board, giving it real power, and restructuring Iowa City police by moving its focus toward “community policing.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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